, 138:251 | Cite as

Rapid increase in viability due to new beneficial mutations in Drosophila melanogaster

  • Priti Azad
  • Mingchai Zhang
  • R. C. Woodruff


It is usually assumed that new beneficial mutations are extremely rare. Yet, few experiments have been performed in multicellular organisms that measure the effect of new beneficial mutations on viability and other measures of fitness. In most experiments, it is difficult to clearly distinguish whether adaptations have occurred due to selection on new beneficial mutations or on preexisting genetic variation. Using a modification of a Dobzhansky and Spassky (Evolution 1:191–216, 1947) assay to study change in viability over generations, we have observed an increase in viability in lines homozygous for the second and third chromosomes of Drosophila melanogaster in 6–26 generations due to the occurrence of new beneficial mutations in population sizes of 20, 100 and 1,000. The lines with the lowest initial viability responded the fastest to new beneficial mutations. These results show that new beneficial mutations, along with selection, can quickly increase viability and fitness even in small populations. Hence, new advantageous mutations may play an important role in adaptive evolution in higher organisms.


New beneficial mutations Selection Viability Population size Drosophila melanogaster 



The authors thank Charles Baer, Juan Bouzat, Yi Gong, Sheng Gu, Dan Pavuk, William Swindell, James Thompson Jr, and Dan Wiegmann for helpful advice and comments on this manuscript, and Joyce Dieterly, Jill Laisure, Katherine Onasch, Heather Strohschein, and Linda Treeger for technical assistance. The BGSU Statistical Center and Dan Wiegmann are also acknowledged for statistical guidance. This work was partially funded by NASA grants NAG 2-1427 and NCC 2-1355 to RCW.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Departments of Pediatrics (Section of Respiratory Medicine)University of California-San DiegoLa JollaUSA
  2. 2.Department of Biological SciencesBowling Green State UniversityBowling GreenUSA

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